It’s a DJBooth tradition. Every time a new album drops, I spend days melting my brain and stalking the Facebook pages of session players and mysterious Ministers (that actually happened) to bring you a comprehensive breakdown of everyone who made the album possible - everyone.
So, when Beyoncé dropped Lemonade this weekend, I knew a liner notes piece had to be done. What I didn't know at the time, but should have guessed based on ten years of experience, is that Beyoncé does it bigger and better than any other artist out there.
The good news is that the official credits for Lemonade aren’t just filled with producers and songwriters. Bey listed songwriters, producers, session players, publishing companies, samples and more. It’s all here and it’s all amazing. The bad news is that there’s no way I would have the time to break down each and every participant. TLOP had over 100 and it almost killed me, and this album is nearly double that. By the time I finally manage to track down the seventh ProTools engineer listed in the credits Bey will have dropped her next surprise album. Sorry.
Still, though, there’s a lot to learn here, there are some real “holy shit moments,” and in that spirit, I’m happy to highlight some names you may know, and some names you definitely don’t. Consider this your Sparknotes to the Lemonade album credits.
"Pray You Catch Me"
Blake was featured prominently on “Forward” and received a “featuring” credit, but he also worked on “Pray You Can Catch Me.” In addition to a songwriting credit, he played the Jupiter Bass, which is a special kind of bass guitar heavily endorsed by Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead. In true Beyoncé fashion, a regular bass wouldn’t do. You could say that’d be too bass-ic. You should listen to James Blake, he's great. Remember his collab with Chance?
Eric Gorfain, Daphne Chen, Charlie Bisharat, Josefina Vergara, Songa Lee, Marisa Kuney, Neel Hammond, Susan Chatman, Katie Sloan, Amy Wickman, Lisa Dondlinger, Terry Glenny, Ina Veli, Gina Kronstadt, Yelena Yegoryan, Radu Pieptea, Crystal Alforque, Serena Mckinney, Leah Katz, Alma Fernandez, Rodney Wirtz, Briana Bandy, Anna Bulbrook, Grace Park, Richard Dodd, John Krovoza, Ira Glansbeek, Vanessa Fairbairn-Smith, Ginger Murphy, Adrienne Woods, Denise Briese, Ryan Cross, Geoff Osika
Goddamn goddamn. Bey brought in a 33-piece string section for one song. That’s insane. The only two producers on this song are Kevin Garrett (who also played keys and has a songwriting credit) and Beyoncé, so we can assume that Eric Gorfain is the orchestra leader. He’s the first name listed and also has a separate “Orchestrations” credit. I did some research on him, he’s part of “The Section Quartet” who has worked with the likes of Foo Fighters, Maroon 5, and Dr. Dre. One more interesting note, Gorfain has also worked with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, who were actually sampled on “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” It’s most likely a coincidence, but it’s fascinating to discover all these overlaps.
Deandre Way is better known as Soulja Boy and he gets a writing credit because Beyonce says “hopped up out of bed, turned my swag on.” This doesn’t seem so crazy now, but in a year, when Lemonade wins every award at the 2017 GRAMMYs, it will mean that Soulja Boy will receive a GRAMMY. Yes, Soulja Boy will be a GRAMMY award-winning artist for his work on a Beyoncé album. What a time it will be to be alive.
Diplo/I Like Turtles Music
These liner notes are crazy in-depth, rightfully listing publishing companies. So while Diplo getting a production credit as well as a “Drum programming” credit is no surprise, you shouldn't go through life not knowing that Diplo’s publishing company is called “I Like Turtles Music.” We’re clearly going to have to do an entirely separate article about the names of producer's publishing companies.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
In our 1-Listen review, Nathan asked if there was an Enya sample and I think he heard “Maps” by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I wanted to point this out because the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are an outstanding band and Karen O is amazing. You should check them out.
"Don’t Hurt Yourself"
James Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham
Led Zeppelin. Led Fucking Zeppelin gets a credit on Beyonce’s album because she sampled “When The Levee Breaks.” In a million years I never would have expected to see Led Zeppelin and Beyoncé side by side so I had to share this. See Gene Simmons, rock and hip-hop can co-exist.
Ruby Amanfu has a “Background Vocals” credit so I did some digging and it turns out, she has worked with an amazingly dope, diverse array of artists. Patti Labelle, Hozier, Weezer, Kelly Clarkson and Jack White, who of course is heavily involved in this song. I also did some social media sleuthing and thought this was particularly interesting. When someone works with Beyoncé and Jack White it'd be easy to assume they're super rich and well known, but that isn't reality. With all these credits, with a Lemonade feature, she still can't afford to pay her guitarist. This should serve as a good reminder that there are some real working class musicians supporting superstar musicians.
Hit-Boy is a name you likely know, but his inclusion is definitely worth highlighting. “Sorry” is the latest addition to a resume that includes “N*ggas In Paris,” “Trophies,” "Clique," "Backseat Freestyle,” "Goldie,” and “XO.” The man has churned out hits. I feel like I say this about every producer, but Hit doesn’t receive nearly as much acclaim as he deserves. That’s as solid of a recent resume as you will find.
I didn’t realize it until “Sorry,” but Stuart White has a credit on every single track, making him the only artist not married to Jay Z with so many credits. Sometimes it’s a co-production credit, sometimes it’s an engineering/mixing credit, and on “Sorry” it’s both. He also has a ridiculous resume, credits on albums like Nas’ Life Is Good, Magna Carta Holy Grail, Pinkprint and Roman Reloaded, along with a fun. album and a Guns N’ Roses Chinese Democracy kicker. He definitely deserves some shine.
Terius “The-Dream” Nash
The obvious person on this song is The Weeknd, but let’s not overlook the fact the The-Dream has a songwriting credit. For those keeping score at home, that’s three of the biggest modern R&B artists on one song. That’s a ton of star power.
Diana “Wynter” Gordon
Gordon is an artist in her own right who is often found collaborating with top-level EDM artists like Steve Aioki, Major Lazer and David Guetta, as well as having appeared on Flo Rida’s hit “Suga.” On this album, she also has writing credits on “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” “Sorry,” and “Daddy Lessons,” in addition to a production credit on “Sorry.” Another great example of an artist who made a big impact on an album without big name recognition.
Derek Dixie appears on five of the twelve songs on Lemonade. According to a 2015 interview with Beyonce’s drummer, Joy Williams—who isn't credited on Lemonade—Dixie is Beyoncé’s Music Director. I would think Bey’s MD would have credits on more songs, but his presence and influence must be more behind the scenes.
You should know the name Mike Dean by now thanks to his extensive work with Kanye (most recently on The Life Of Pablo), so it’s definitely worth mentioning he has a production credit and a songwriting credit here. The man is a legend.
Rivas has a “second engineering” credit, which jumped out at me because—and no disrespect to engineers - it’s the polar opposite of Mike Dean. Rivas is a name you don’t know but he’s worked on Pharrell’s G I R L, Magna Carta Holy Grail, Sheeran’s X, and T- Pain’s Thr33 Ringz just to name a few. He’s a normal dude, one you wouldn't recognize in line at the grocery store, but his resume reads like any superstar producer. It's amazing how you can make a living off music and never see a sliver of fame.
“The most critically acclaimed wordsmith in the game” is definitely a name you know if you are a Kanye fan. For a name as recognizable as his, you don’t see Yusef around much. His last big credit was as a composer on Common’s Nobody’s Smiling, so a writing credit on Bey’s album is a big look.
Boots actually appears a few times on this album as a producer and songwriter, which isn’t surprising considering he’s a ROC NATION signed artist, has worked with Beyoncé before, along with Run The Jewels, and is increasingly well known, but his credit on “Sandcastles” caught my attention because it’s for the “Synth Arrangement.” In all my liner note digs I’ve never seen that title used before. It’s an even cooler name than Boots. Here's what he looks like, so if you see him on the street you'll know he's one of Beyoncé's favorite musicians.
What stood out the most about "Forward" was how sparse the credits were. Aside from the obvious credit for Blake—who wrote, produced, and played the keys - and the aforementioned Rivas and Stuart White, the only other named that jumped out was Arthur Chambazyan, who is listed as the “Pacifique Studio Assistant.” That’s another title I’ve never seen before; a studio assistant credit! We see you Arthur, keep putting in work.
My favorite part of this whole search was seeing Just Blaze with a production credit. The Kendrick feature was noteworthy, Boots making a few appearances is cool, but the big takeaway is the fact that Just Blaze, one of the best sample producers of all time, is behind the boards on a song which samples three different songs.
Timothy and Theron Thomas
You know them better as Rock City (or R. City), which if you're like me might prompt you to yell, "Rockkk Ci-ty!” It’s been a long time since they’ve crossed my mind or my ears and I certainly wasn’t thinking "I bet Rock City is on here” when I started these liner notes, but their songwriting work is nothing to sneeze at.
Nathan mentioned the “Spottieottiedopaliscious” sample in our 1-Listen, but now it’s official. “Spottieottiedopaliscious” is sampled on Lemonade. Amazing. With the sample, Andre 3000 and Big Boi both get a credit. Only 3 Stacks could manage a credit on two of the biggest albums of the year (see TLOP) without dropping a song in five hundred years. Also, "Spottieottiedopaliscious" is a classic, as if you needed a reminder.
Rae Sremmurd's Swae Lee having songwriting credit is not news—thanks in part to Hot 97’s resident troll, Ebro—and he's credited as a songwriter under his government name, Khalif Brown, but I thought it was cool he had an “Adlibs” credit as well. Have you ever in your life seen an ad-lib credit? That's totally new to me and a trend I’d love to see continue, so long as it doesn't net DJ Khaled a mantle full of GRAMMYs.
I highly recommend checking out the full credits. You don't have to spend your entire day browsing around, but a quick check of the most thorough, in-depth liner notes I've ever encountered should really help you learn more about the album and how it was made. Beyoncé isn't just an artist, she's an industry, and it takes a small city worth of people to support the creation of one of her albums. The Queen is good to her subjects.